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The state could grow an even faster under a bill filed by a Southwest Florida lawmaker. Legislation by a Senate Republican would allow developers to cut through government red tape.

A bill by Senator Wilton Simpson of Brooksville would allow more builders to expedite their projects by avoiding a government approval process called developments of regional impact, or DRIs. It would boost economic development, but environmentalists like 1,000 Friends of Florida’s Charles Pattison have big concerns.

A disease known as citrus greening continues to devastate Florida’s iconic crop. An expert warns time is running out for the state’s growers.

Harold Browning, chief operations officer of the Citrus Research and Development Foundation, says scientists are making progress to slow the disease, but it may not be fast enough.

“Without some interventions to slow the decline of these trees to allow for the replanting of citrus, we’re not going to retain the citrus industry as we know it.”

Associated Press

  

Florida's unemployment rate continues to drop.

This morning, the state's December 2014 unemployment numbers were released. Last month, the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent—down 0.2 percent from November—numbers that mirror the national trend.

 Florida added an estimated 12,700 jobs in December. The unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since the spring of 2008 when it was 5.4 percent. The new figures also show that there are roughly 543,000 people out of work in the Sunshine State. 

It seems there’s new trouble brewing for Florida’s small but growing craft beer industry.  The Florida Retail Federation is challenging a long-standing exception to the state’s licensing rules that allows a brewery to sell beer in on-site ‘tasting’ or ‘tap’ rooms.  But this isn’t the only attack the state’s rules have drawn.

Beer is bipartisan.  Really, it’s hard to imagine something more people can agree on.  But, unfortunately in Florida, beer is a political issue.

Swoope To Depart Enterprise Florida Next Month

Jan 15, 2015

Florida’s top jobs recruiter is stepping down from his post.

At the end of February, Gray Swoope will resign.  He’s the state’s Secretary of Commerce as well as the head of Enterprise Florida, the state’s lead economic development agency.

Swoope was one of the few top officials who served during Governor Rick Scott’s entire first term.

In a statement following Swoope’s announced departure, Scott hailed Swoope for creating “a jobs legacy” and for making “major economic deals” happen for the state.

Ballot Proposal Seeks More Solar in Sunshine State

Jan 14, 2015

Businesses and property owners would be able to sell a limited amount of solar energy under a ballot initiative rolled out Wednesday by a coalition that brings together free-market conservatives, retailers and alternative-energy supporters.

The proposed constitutional amendment is expected to face opposition from large power companies, which offered little comment Wednesday.

After last year’s legislative session, Florida failed to secure the tax incentive money it needed to lure more movie and television projects to the Sunshine State.

But things could change in 2015. And Palm Beach County lawmakers want to play a starring role in replenishing those funds.

Beer distribution interests in Florida have launched a legal attack against a well-established exception to the state’s three-tier system.  The ‘Tourism Exception’ allows brewers licensed for manufacturing beer to sell it directly to the public. 

Publix will extend insurance plans to same-sex spouses of employees who are legally married.

The company announced that it will open enrollment on Jan. 1 for any employee who can who show proof of lawful marriage in a state where same-sex unions are allowed.

The couples will get the same health care coverage as any heterosexual couple.

Gov. Scott: Florida Has Reached His 2010 Jobs Goal

Dec 19, 2014
Mark Wilson / Getty News Images

Gov. Rick Scott declared Friday that Florida has reached his 2010 campaign goal of creating 700,000 jobs within seven years, as the state's unemployment rate was posted at its lowest rate since May 2008.

Four years ago, Scott's jobs pledge was accompanied by the line "on top of what normal growth would be," a phrase abandoned by the governor shortly after he took office but not forgotten by Democrats.

Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Rays.

It's a "big week," according to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn - an understatement for a man who may get all of his gifts well before the holidays this year.

Now that Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has unveiled his billion dollar "vision plan" for redeveloping the southern portion of downtown Tampa, Buckhorn is turning his focus to the possibility that the Tampa Bay Rays could be part of his city's new look.

Strategic Property Partners LLC

Tampa Bay Lighting owner Jeff Vinik admitted that he formed his group "Strategic Property Partners" so he could slowly and quietly buy up property surrounding the Amelie Arena in downtown Tampa.

That silence was shattered Wednesday when he finally unveiled his "vision plan" for the Channelside District.

Vinik Unveils Billion-Dollar Vision for Downtown Tampa

Dec 17, 2014

Jeff Vinik on Wednesday unveiled plans to build nearly 3 million square feet of commercial space on the 25 acres between Amalie Arena and the Selmon Expressway that he has assembled over the last several years. The development plans, which total $1.07 billion, are backed by Microsoft Founder Bill Gates' Cascade Investment LLC. Vinik's team estimates the project will generate $35 million in annual tax revenue for Hillsborough County.

Citizens insurance is touting its efforts to move policies into the private market—a process known as depopulation.  Florida’s insurer of last resort is introducing new plans to make the move more transparent.

The state-backed insurer concluded its final meeting of the year Wednesday, highlighting its ability to shift 300,000 policies to the private sector since January.  Citizens official Steve Bitar says the company is making changes to improve the depopulation process for consumers.

Florida saw an increase in the number of “ultra-wealthy” millionaires in 2014.

Ball Park Guides.com

By the end of the week, the Tampa Bay Rays may be able to look for a new stadium site in Hillsborough County, thanks to a tentative deal reached with the city of St. Petersburg.

Mayor Rick Kriseman will talk about the agreement (which you can read through the slideshow above) he reached with the team at a 10 a.m. news conference today at Tropicana Field. The issue will likely be taken up by the St. Pete City Council at its meeting Thursday.

Governor Rick Scott kicked off his “Jobs Jamboree” tour in Miami Monday, in lieu of traditional inaugural events.

Instead of an inaugural ball or parade, Scott decided to hold a series of informal barbecues and prayer breakfasts across the state, and he launched the tour Monday—also his 62nd birthday. In a video posted by the Florida GOP, Scott talks, of course, about jobs—a premiere point in his campaign.

Florida's Jobless Mark at Lowest Rate Since 2008

Nov 21, 2014

The state's jobless mark dipped slightly from 6.1 percent in September to a six-year-low of 6.0 percent in October, with the strongest growth found in education, health care and service-related fields.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity announced Friday that the number of people listed as unemployed in Florida fell by 13,000 from month to month and stood at 578,000 jobless out of a labor force of 9.6 million.

Historic Kress Building in Tampa to be Redeveloped

Nov 10, 2014

The Tampa Bay Business Journal is reporting a group of Tampa real estate veterans has teamed up with an Atlanta hotel developer to redevelop the five-story Kress, which was the home of five-and-dime store S.H. Kress & Co. The Tampa team includes father-and-son construction executives Sam and Casey Ellison; Anthony Italiano, a partner with the Ellisons in EWI Construction; and Tampa developer Alex Walter.

Gary Morse, a visionary property developer, transformed a Florida mobile home park into the nation's largest retirement community. The billionaire died Wednesday at the age of 77.

Under Morse's direction, The Villages, northwest of Orlando, redefined retirement living. It's a community that is remarkable most of all for its size — home to nearly 100,000 residents living in dozens of communities, spread over an area the size of Manhattan.

 A craft brewery on the Treasure Coast is fighting Florida's growler ban in federal court. The owners, along with a national legal group, filed a civil rights lawsuit Tuesday with the U.S. District Court in Fort Pierce.

The $137 Million Sarasota Deal That Got Away

Oct 28, 2014

Since its inception, Sarasota County's business growth plan — like many around the state — has had mixed success luring employers like this. But in the competitive world of economic development, where job-starved communities use promises of cash incentives and tax breaks to reel in corporate spending, this was kind of prey that local officials could not help but chase. This was one that got away.

www.blendspace.com

Florida regulators are signing off on new rates for three of the state's biggest power companies that will result in some customers paying less.

The Public Service Commission on Wednesday approved cost recovery charges for Florida Power & Light, Gulf Power Company, and Tampa Electric Company. The new rates will take effect in January 2015.

These charges include the amount of money that utilities are expected to pay for fuel in the coming year.

Last Friday, Spanish language TV station Telemundo aired the first of Florida’s gubernatorial debates.  But Telemundo chose not to include Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie. 

This is a three-part radio series produced in partnership with The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

www.pennenergy.com

State regulators are ordering one of Florida's largest power companies to refund $54 million it collected from ratepayers to pay for a failed nuclear plant.

The Florida Public Service Commission voted Thursday to require Duke Energy to credit customers for equipment intended for a plant in Levy County. The company never received the equipment and is suing the vendor.

Duke announced last year it was abandoning plans to build the plant in the small county on the Gulf coast.

Utility, Foes of 'Smart Meters' Square Off

Sep 30, 2014

State regulators Tuesday took up a dispute about a Florida Power & Light plan to collect extra money from thousands of customers who refuse to allow "smart" meters to gauge electricity use.

The dispute involves only a fraction of FPL's customers, but it is part of a broader controversy in which critics say they worry the new meter technology could pose threats to their privacy or health.

State Senator Seeks to Rein in Utility Bill Extensions

Sep 29, 2014
File photo

State utility regulators would have to give formal approval before Duke Energy Florida or any other power company could again hike customer bills through a temporary billing-cycle extension, under a measure being worked on by Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness.

Dean's office announced Monday that the senator is planning a pair of utility-related proposals for the 2015 legislative session, including one that would require approval by the state Public Service Commission before the start of any billing-cycle extensions that are not emergency-related.

State-Backed Citizens Insurance May Put Early End to Storm Tax

Sep 20, 2014

A 1 percent charge imposed on most homeowners' policies to help the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. cover losses from the last of the 2005 hurricanes may come off the books two years early.

Citizens' Board of Governors will be asked Wednesday to put an end date of July 1, 2015, on the storm assessment, which has been slated to continue until June 30, 2017, according a proposal on the board's agenda.

August Unemployment Numbers Up Slightly

Sep 19, 2014
fr.wikipedia.org

The August unemployment rates for Florida were released today. Changes were minimal from July to August.
Florida’s unemployment rate for August is 6.3%, slightly higher than the rate for July.

Florida has a higher unemployment than the U.S., with the national rate coming in at 6.1 percent. In the bay area, Hernando county has the highest unemployment rate at 8.8 percent.

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